The Oakland Raiders 2017 Training Camp is a little over a month away, but before I get too ahead of myself, the Silver and Black will kick off their three-day Mandatory Mini-Camp Tuesday. The team concluded its final week of Organized Team Activities [OTAs] Friday, and will enter this week ready to get back to work.
The Raiders didn't end the 2016 season in the manner they would've preferred, but there were still several positive takeaways the team can build on going forward. As the 2017 season draws near, and the team continues to build through the offseason, here's what you should look for during this week's Mini-Camp.
Running Back Marshawn Lynch's Impact On The Offense
By now, I'm assuming a majority of people have heard Marshawn Lynch has come out of retirement, but in case you haven't, the man has officially been an Oakland Raider since April 26 now, which is still crazy to think about. Lynch joined the team right before the 2017 NFL Draft, and seems to be meshing well with his new teammates thus far. Judging from his involvement on the field during the team's offseason workout program and OTAs, Lynch appears to still be in top-form.
Practice without contact isn't nearly the same product as when the pads are on – as you can imagine – but as No. 24 gets to know quarterback Derek Carr and the offense more, it'll be interesting to watch him grow with the offense.
Downing's Integration With The Offense
After spending the past two years as the Raiders quarterbacks coach, new offensive coordinator Todd Downing is ready to get to work with his unit. With Downing as his quarterback coach, Carr blossomed into one of the NFL's MVP-candidates last season, until his broken leg in Week 16 derailed his campaign. Now as the team's offensive coordinator, Downing will have a multitude of offensive weapons – including a healthy Carr – at his disposal in 2017.
From new additions wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, to tight end Jared Cook, and Lynch, Downing has the tools in place to play around with what was already one of the most prominent offenses in the league last season. It'll be interesting to see how he incorporates different pieces into the offense, and Mini-Camp should give us a good, first look at what he has up his sleeve.
Who's All There
While the Raiders Mini-Camp is mandatory, and everyone should be there, getting acquainted with some of the new faces will be worth watching. As mentioned previously, the team acquired Lynch, Cook, and Patterson during the offseason, but there have been several other additions as well.
As it goes, the NFL has a plethora of turnover from season to season, and with 27 total rookies currently on the roster, and an additional six players added through free agency, there will be a lot of new players on the field come Tuesday.
Competition At Middle Linebacker
The linebacker position is one of the tougher spots to fill in the league, and the Raiders have loaded up on players that could slide into that role. In the fifth round the team selected linebacker Marquel Lee out of Wake Forest University, who ended up being a vocal leader throughout Rookie Mini-Camp. The team also has Ben Heeney, Tyrell Adams, and Cory James in the mix to compete for the spot.
That's one of the true calling cards of a quality linebacker, if they can command the defensive huddle, and survey the field. There's not a clear-cut player who has set themselves apart to be the starting middle linebacker, but this week could give us our first glimpse of who could fill those shoes.
How Mario Edwards, Jr., Looks
When healthy, defensive end Mario Edwards, Jr., can be a wrecking ball. The former Florida State Seminole will go into 2017 with two years of experience on his résumé, at only 23 years old too. Injuries have been an issue for Edwards during his time in the league, but has proven to be a brute force. The Raiders already have a two-man demolition team in defensive end Khalil Mack and linebacker Bruce Irvin, but the added depth of Edwards can create problems for opposing offensive lines. If he's able to stay on the field, observing Edwards' performance on the field this week could be noteworthy.
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